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BYU football: OSU transfer Unga humbled by captain selection

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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Weber State Wildcats running back Kris Parham (7) is tackled by BYU's Ezekiel Ansah (47) and Uani Unga (41) during the first half of the game against Weber State at LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012.

By Jay Drew

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Aug 29 2013 12:04PM
Updated Feb 14, 2014 11:33PM

Provo • The thought of one day playing football for BYU never crossed linebacker Uani Unga’s mind when he was growing up in California and Hawaii and eventually signing with Oregon State.

Now he is a team captain for the Cougars.

Just before BYU kicks off against Virginia on Saturday in the season opener for both teams, Unga will be there at midfield for the coin toss, a development that has surprised even him.

After two good seasons at OSU, Unga transferred to BYU, mostly so his wife, Lachelle, and their newborn child could live closer to her family in Orem.

"Kinda surreal, how it has all worked out," the senior said, noting that he was happy in Corvallis, but made the decision to leave after seeing how difficult it was on his wife to be away from family, and with an infant baby, while he was gone 10 to 12 hours a day at school and football practice.

Unga, who is the cousin of BYU’s all-time leading rusher, Harvey Unga, called being elected a captain a humbling and surprising experience.

"It never even crossed my mind that [the vote] would come out like that," he said. "It surprised me. But I am grateful that the guys on the team look up to me like that and trust that I can be one of their leaders."

Technological wizards

Although he declined to go into details, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said Wednesday that BYU is doing a "phenomenal job" of using technology for scouting, game preparation and the like.

"I am not sure there is a program that is being run more effectively, and efficiently, with use of technology, than us," he said. "The speed in which we are able to use practice film, in real time, to make adjustments not only on the field, while we are coaching, but after, I don’t think anyone does it better."

Mendenhall said that when his coaching staff traveled to Pittsburgh a few months ago to learn defensive strategy and techniques from the Steelers, "They were amazed at what we were doing, and wanted to use that technology, and just couldn’t believe what an advantage it gives us."

Defensive adjustments

Mendenhall said on his radio show Wednesday night that cornerback Mike Hague suffered a slight hamstring injury in practice earlier this week. Defensive coordinator Nick Howell said senior Skye PoVey would likely start at the boundary corner position, but would likely rotate with freshman Dallin Leavitt and Hague, if he can go.

Freshman nose tackle JonRhyheem Peoples has been cleared to return to practice after suffering concussion-like symptoms in practice last Saturday, but will not make the trip to Virginia, Mendenhall said.

"I wasn’t convinced that, even though he was cleared [he is ready to play]," Mendenhall said. "I am a little more cautious on that. So we will probably consider him for next week [against Texas]."

Mendenhall said freshman Sae Tautu (6-3, 245) from Lone Peak High has been moved from outside linebacker to defensive end, while junior Marques Johnson and sophomore Logan Taele have been "cross-trained" to play both nose tackle and end on the defensive line.

drew@sltrib.com

Twitter: @drewjay

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